- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

INS settles lawsuit against agent
MIAMI The Immigration and Naturalization Service settled a lawsuit yesterday that charged its Miami offices fostered anti-Cuban and anti-Hispanic sentiments and retaliated against an agent who aired bias accusations after the armed raid to seize Elian Gonzalez.
The federal whistle-blower lawsuit, brought by INS Agent Ricardo Ramirez against the Justice Department, had been scheduled to go to trial on Monday. Agent Ramirez claimed he faced retaliation after going public with accusations of bias at the INS. The INS falls under the Justice Department's jurisdiction.
Most terms of the settlement are secret, but the court will monitor its enforcement.
Agent Ramirez, a 17-year veteran of the agency, claimed he has been the target of about 20 internal complaints since he spoke out after the armed federal raid to seize Elian from the home of his Miami relatives in April 2000.
Agent Ramirez claimed a picture of Elian bearing the words "Kick me" was taped to a box, encouraging passers-by to vent their frustration with the slow-moving tug of war between the boy's Miami relatives and his father in Cuba. Elian was eventually returned to his father's custody.
INS agents also testified they saw cup holders bearing a crossed-out image of a Cuban flag, "banana republic" banners and swastikas on display at the Miami office.

Child agency caseworker pleads guilty to falsifying records
BARTOW, Fla. A Department of Children and Families caseworker fired following the death of a toddler pleaded guilty yesterday to falsifying records.
Erica Jones was sentenced to three years' probation and is prohibited from working in any field involving children or the elderly.
Mrs. Jones had been assigned to investigate accusations 2-year-old Alfredo Montez was being abused.
Mrs. Jones falsified paperwork saying she had visited the home July 1 and Alfredo was fine. He was slain that day, and his body was found off an interstate on July 11.
Richard Chouquer is charged with murder and Amandy Lawrence is charged with being an accessory in Alfredo's death. The boy was in their care at the time.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think about Alfredo and I know he's now in safe hands," Mrs. Jones said, before breaking down and crying.

Storms destroy homes, flip cars
MONROE CITY, Ind. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes raked Indiana yesterday, damaging dozens of homes, flipping cars and uprooting trees.
There were many reports of minor injuries, and authorities are still checking some areas.
Ten to 12 houses were reported destroyed and an apartment complex was damaged in Ellettsville, 50 miles south of Indianapolis.

Army postpones weapons disposal
ANNISTON, Ala. The Army has postponed plans to begin burning Cold War-era chemical weapons at its new incinerator next month, citing new objections from state environmental officials.
The Army's spokesman for the project, Mike Abrams, said burning will probably not begin until after Jan. 1.
The Army had planned to begin destroying 2,254 tons of deadly Cold War-era chemical weapons at the Anniston Army Depot in late October.
But the state Department of Environmental Management asked for a delay Sept. 12, complaining that the Army's laboratory burn tests were not done according to the procedure approved by the agency. Mr. Abrams said the tests will be redone to meet the state requirements.

Suspicious packages scare town
BARNESVILLE, Ga. Several blocks in a small Georgia city were evacuated yesterday after authorities found at least seven suspicious packages resembling pipe bombs, police said.
Buddy Waller, a deputy sheriff with the Lamar County Sheriff's Department, said 50 or 60 businesses in downtown Barnesville were cleared as police and bomb units investigated the unidentified devices.
Two day care centers were also evacuated, Mr. Waller said. Barnesville, home to about 6,000 people, is located about 53 miles south of Atlanta.


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